The Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu was an important New Kingdom period temple structure. It is in the West Bank of Luxor in Egypt. Aside from its size and architectural and artistic importance. The mortuary temple probably best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramesses III.

Modern identification and excavation

One of John Beasley Greene’s set of the earliest photos of the temple, showing the second pylon before excavations

The first European to describe the temple in modern literature was Vivant Denon, who visited it in 1799–1801. Jean-François Champollion described it in detail in 1829.

Initial excavation of the temple took place sporadically between 1859 and 1899, under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities. During these decades the main temple cleared. A large number of the Greco-Roman period buildings. Including a substantial Byzantine Church in the second court. Destroyed without notes or records being taken.

The further excavation, recording and conservation of the temple has facilitated in chief part by the Architectural and Epigraphic Surveys of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Almost continuously since 1924.

Description of Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III

Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, general view from the south

The temple, some 150 m (490 ft) long, is of orthodox design, and closely resembles the nearby mortuary temple of Ramesses II (the Ramesseum). The temple precinct measures approximately 210 m (690 ft). by 300 m (1,000 ft) and contains more than 7,000 m2 (75,347 sq ft) of decorated wall reliefs.[4] Its walls are relatively well preserved and it is surrounded by a massive mudbrick enclosure, which may have been fortified. The original entrance is through a fortified gate-house, known as a migdol (a common architectural feature of Asiatic fortresses of the time).

Just inside the enclosure, to the south, are chapels of Amenirdis I, Shepenupet II and Nitiqret, all of whom had the title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun.

The first pylon leads into an open courtyard, lined with colossal statues of Ramesses III as Osiris on one side, and uncarved columns on the other. The second pylon leads into a peristyle hall, again featuring columns in the shape of Ramesses. The third pylon reached by continuing up a ramp that leads through a columned portico. Then opens into a large hypostyle hall (which has lost its roof). Reliefs and actual heads of foreign captives also found placed within the temple. Perhaps in an attempt to symbolise the king’s control over Syria and Nubia.